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July 31, 2002
9 lbs 6 oz
20 inches long
14 inch head & 15 inch chest
Our birth story:
All last night I dreamed I was having contractions. I would wake, and feel my uterus just beginning to let go of gripping me, and fall back asleep to dream of those waves again, going under and coming back up. I don’t think I woke to every contraction… just the “bigger” ones. But by 5 a.m. on July 31st, I was awake and pretty sure that going back to sleep wasn’t going to be an option! Michael woke and asked if I was having contractions and I reluctantly admitted that I was. We talked and cuddled a little while. I was feeling apprehensive about starting this process. I knew it was going to hurt and I knew it was going to be hard. I’d experienced labor just a little over a year ago with our daughter, Zoe, and here I was facing the journey again. I was also afraid of back labor, something I’d heard about and had supported other women through as a doula, but had never experienced myself. The baby was still posterior (and still kicking me up high during contractions between my ribs!) I didn’t want a long, drawn out labor. Could I really do this? Michael held me for a while and helped me get centered. He made a lot of sense when he said that it was better to get into a good mindset now, even if it wasn’t the “real thing.” That was always my fear, being the “woman who cried labor.” I didn’t want to alert anyone too early. Zoe, our 1-year-old, woke up around 6:30 a.m, and when I tried to roll over onto my right side, the pain was much more intense and sharp, so I decided to get up and take a bath. Water always felt so good for me during early labor. I spent an hour or so there, submerged as I could get, with a candle lit, breathing, breathing, feeling my belly rise with each contraction. I practiced the “breath awarness” that I’d learned from Birthing Within. I didn’t anticipate the next contraction, I simply noticed by breath during contractions and floated between. I wasn’t aware of time passing, but things were getting more intense. Oh yeah, I remembered what this felt like. This was definitely the real thing. I gave Michael some time to get Zoe settled back to sleep and told him to start calling everyone. “So it’s pretty imminent, huh?” he asked from outside the bathroom door. I smiled. “We’re having a baby today,” I replied.
By 8 a.m. I was out of the tub, feeling clean and good, and still having contractions. Our doula (one of them) showed up, and was very helpful feeding me, getting me to drink, having me up to use the bathroom. Her hands were fantastic, her words encouraging. She reminded me of the baby all of the time, something I always forget during my births as the sensations take me over, and I would focus on him, imagining his descent, his journey parallel with my own. I was on my left side for a long time (strangely, my right side, especially just above my pelvis, hurt a LOT, and we didn’t know why at the time. Speculation was that it could have been an arm or hand pressing there, but we couldn’t feel anything when we massaged, and later it was just too tender to touch) curled up against Michael with a pillow between my legs, and my doula curled up behind me, both of them stroking me, talking to me, reminding me to take them just one…. at…. a…. time…. I didn’t feel out of control, although I felt things starting to intensify over time. It was here that all of the breath awareness that I’d learned from Birthing From Within really helped. Staying present, grounded, centered, in the moment. There was no time, nothing else existed but these waves, rising and falling in my belly.
Another of our doulas suggested a bathroom break, and a hot water bottle on my back. My midwives arrived and the baby sounded wonderful, my blood pressure was good, and they didn’t need to do a vaginal exam. (I had requested minimal exams, if any, and didn’t want to know how far dilated I was because it has too much of a psychological effect on me. I start doing labor-math, figuring out how much longer I might be at this, and things seem to just fall apart!) They helped me labor, too, and the words “sink into it… good… relax your shoulders… perfect… you are sooo strong…” still echo in my head. They were incredibly encouraging, buoying me up wave after wave.I could hear Zoe in the other room, which was a distraction… my baby wanted her mommy! I had to remind myself that I needed to stay focused on my belly-baby. Thankfully, my mom soon arrived to keep an eye on her and my father also showed up! I was surprised when heard his voice. It gave me a moment’s pause but then I sank back into labor. At that point, Santa Claus could have arrived and I wouldn’t have cared! I was pretty lost in laborland by then, and getting excellent rest between contractions. I actually fell asleep after some of them, as did Michael. He would wake when I grabbed his hand or shirt and I started that deep, deep cleansing first breath. By this time, the room had been cleared of most people except our midwives now and then, and Michael and I labored together, moaned together. A few times, I couldn’t bear to be in bed anymore and would get up and labor standing, which hurt more, ohhhh wow did it hurt more, but I could feel the baby start moving down and down. The pressure was getting intense. I would hold our footboard and rock, rock, rock my hips lower and lower and was nearly squatting by the time each contraction peaked and then I would rock my way back up again and lean over the footboard and rest until the next wave. When I couldn’t stand the pressure any longer, I’d crawl back into bed again.
People came in and out, with quiet suggestions, encouraging words, soft hands. Our photographer snapped labor pictures from the corner. I was really just lost. It hurt a lot during contractions, I could feel my head spinning sometimes, and I would moan low and loud. A few times I could hear Zoe in the other room imitating me! That made me smile, even during contractions. But I didn’t feel panic or fear, which I was grateful for, and I didn’t experience back labor, just that strange pain in my lower belly that no one could account for which made leaning forward for hands and knees positions unbearable, along with that feeling of my body and cervix opening wider, wider, widest, as the baby moved down and down and down.
The midwives did check me once per my request but I didn’t want to know the “number.” I wanted her to feel for the sutures and see if baby was still posterior. She said my cervix was “like butter,” nice and open, baby was very, very low and either LOP or ROA. I found out later that at the time I was 7-8 cm (Michael couldn’t resist asking after he was born!) but I was still taking them just one at a time. The hands and knees suggestion came up again, and I said I’d try it. It worked for two contractions, although “worked” is relative, because the pain it caused was so incredibly intense. I suddenly felt like pushing and couldn’t help bearing down a little… POP! My water broke, not a huge gush, because baby’s head was so low. And getting lower every minute! That feeling of fullness and stretching began. I rolled over to my side.
Suddenly the room was a flurry of activity. I said, “Check me, I want to make sure its ok to push!” The midwife grabbed a glove but before she could reach in, I was pushing HARD. There was no way I could stop it. It would have been like stopping a freight train by holding your hand against it! She said, “Ok, baby’s head is right here.” But I knew that already. He was there all right. I called for the kids to come in, and the room flooded with people. He felt so BIG as I pushed, and with that push he was right on my perineum. Then came the burning sensation. I was saying, “It burns, it burns!” and they said, “Breathe through it,” His head felt huge, and I could actually feel bone against bone as he moved under and out. Someone showed me in a mirror, and I felt his wet, slippery scalp with my hand. My baby!! Pushing his head out was harder than any of my other births had been, and when his hand came out next to his face we knew why, and there was a good explanation for that strange pain on my lower right-hand side, probably his elbow digging in there! His head was out, but still there was that feeling of incredible fullness and I pushed again, and felt every part of him as he slipped out of me. What a relief! I pulled him up to my chest, and actually laughed. He seemed enormous to me, covered in vernix and starting to cry. He looked like a little sumo wrestler!
There were a few minutes when the midwives worried about bleeding and gave me some herbal remedies. Bleeding slowed, thankfully, and the placenta delivered in half an hour. That, too, seemed enormous to me. Michael said a blessing and cut the baby’s cord with his knife after it stopped pulsing, and then we cut off the twine bracelets we’d braided and had been wearing since my Blessingway ceremony. My perineum stung a bit, but no real tears, just a “skid mark.” Baby nursed within 15 minutes, perfect latch, and didn’t stop for an hour, when we got up to take our herbal bath. That was incredible, looking at him over my deflated belly, floating supported by my hands, submerged in water except for his eyes, nose and mouth. His eyes were wide open and curious. I fell in love.
After the newborn exam, (9lbs 6 oz, almost twice the size of my last baby!) slowly, people said goodbye and left. By 4:30 p.m., we were cuddled in bed together becoming a family of six. Autumn and Blake clamored to hold him. Zoe wanted mommy and I cuddled her and introduced her to the new baby. As I write this, he is nursing vigorously and is a little over 8 hours old. I can’t believe he’s here, that I’m not pregnant anymore, that all those months of waiting, planning, wondering, are over. What a journey it’s been… what an incredible journey we are about to begin.